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Wicca is a modern-day recontructionist faith that is based on Indo-European mythology. Also known as "White Witchcraft", it is heavily influenced by nature spirituality, and has seen a rise in popularity in recent years.
There are several different forms of Wicca, mostly based on cultral backgrounds and personal philosophy.
Q: Is there a central Wiccan group that everyone belongs to?
No. Wicca is probably the most de-centralized religion in the world. There are a number of Wiccan organizations, but there is no central eccelsiastical heiarchy. People practice as members of covens, while others, like myself, practice as "Solitary Wiccans".
Q: What do Wiccans Worship?
Wiccans traditionally worship two dieities in the form of the Goddess and God. Since Wicca has it's origins in ancient fertility religions, it is not surprising to have these symbols in modern interpretations.
The Goddess is representative of the feminine aspect of life. The God (often portrayed as a Horned God), sometimes referred to as the Goddess' consort, is the male aspect.
Various traditions depict them in various forms, except for Feminist Wicca, which worships only a Goddess.
Q: Why is the Horned God often depicted as goat-like?
Wicca's roots are deep in ancient fertility religions, and the masculine God was often depicted as a goat or stag.
Q: Do Wiccans believe in the God and Goddess as literal dieties, or only as archetypes?
Some do one, some do the other. I, myself hold them as archetyes, but sometimes during intense rituals, I often feel a great presence...so it's hard to tell where archetypes and dieites seperate.
Q: How old is the Wiccan religion?
While it has influences from ancient religions, Wicca, as it is practiced today, can be traced to the 1950's in England. There were ancient anti-witchcraft laws that were still on the books, but the "Fraudulent Mediums Act", which was meant to crack down on con-artists who pretended to be fortune tellers, had a clause that exempted those who simply claimed to have psychic powers, but were not working or posing as fortune tellers, from suspicion. This inadvertantly nullified the anti-witchcraft laws, and Wicca, as we know it today, gained promemance in England, with people boldly coming out to the media and proclaiming themselves as witches.
Q: Is Wicca officially considered a religion in the USA?
Yes, despite what many on the radio talk-show circuit may say. Wicca is recognized as a valid and legitimate religious faith by the U.S. Government. Wiccan religious organizations are eligible for the same tax-exempt status as mainstream Christian churches. Wicca is even recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Chaplain's manual includes information about Wicca.
Q: Do male Wiccans call themselves Warlocks?
No. The term "warlock" is Old English for traitor. During the Dark Ages, rulers were often recognized to rule by "divine right". That is, they rule because God chose them to rule in His infinate wisdom. To practice a faith other than that of the king's, such as one of the "old religions", was considered an act of treason, and a person who practiced a different faith was considered a trator (warlock). Through this, the term "warlock" was incorrectly associated with witchcraft. It is no longer in use.
The television show "Bewitched" used the term "warlock" for male witches, and it's probably through the show's popularity that this misinterpretation flourished.
Q: Do Wiccans worship the moon?
No. Wiccans practice rites during phases of the moon, mostly during the full moon, but the moon is not venerated or worshipped. It is often held as a symbol of the Goddess, but is not held as a dieity.
Q: Do Wiccans worship Satan?
No. Satan, Lucifer, the Devil, et al., is an adversarial figure from Judaism, Christanity and Islam, not Wicca. Wiccans do not believe in the existance of a devil, and therefore, don't worship it.
Also, Satanists (as least the ones I've encountered) prefer not to associate with Wiccans. I've heard the term "tree-hugger" used demeaningly towards Wiccans.
Q: Do Wiccans practice evil?
No. Wiccans believe in a three-fold law of retribution. That is, what you "send out", good or ill, returns to you three times as much. So, doing deliberate evil acts will only invite disaster.
Q: Do Wiccans practice animal sacrifice?
No. Wicca is a life-affirming faith. Blood sacrifice goes against that. Wiccans do not perform any kind of sacrificial rituals.
Q: What is Wicca's stand on abortion?
It varies on the individual. Some are adamantly pro-life, others are pro-choice. The general concensus is that most Wiccans are pro-choice, citing the libertarian concepts of freedom of choice, and taking responcibility for one's actions. In general, the belief is that the decision rests between the woman, her husband (if there is one), her doctor, and her conscience.
Q: Are homosexuals and bisexuals welcome in Wicca?
Yes. In fact there is a strong historical connection between witchcraft and homosexuality. When those found guilty of witchcraft were burned at the stake in England, often someone who had been found guilty of sodomy would be bound hand and foot, and thrown upon the pyres with the firewood. The term for a bundle of sticks used for firewood, "faggot", would become a slur towards homosexuals.
Q: Is there any mainstream religious organization that accepts Wiccans?
Yes. The Unitarian-Universalist Association has openly accepted Wiccans through the Covenant of Unitarian-Universalist Pagans (CUUPS). I, myself belong to a U-U congregation in Las Vegas, as well as CUUPS-Las Vegas.
If there is no U-U congregation near you, consider the Church of the Larger Fellowship.
Q: Are Wiccans hostile to Christianity?
Some have converted to Wicca from Christianity for various personal reasons (I, myself, am a former Lutheran, as well as a fomer "Born Again"). A few may hold some personal gripes towards some dogma or have had experienced a bad event from the clergy or members of a particular Christian sect. But Wicca in itself is not hostile towards Christianity, nor any other religion. It is meant to be a compassionate, life-affirming faith.
Q: What is the difference between Wicca and Paganism?
"Wicca" is an Old English word for "wise". "Pagan" comes from the Latin word "Paganus", the equivilent of "hick" or "rube". It literally meant one who was not subject to the civilizing aspects of a city. The term "Pagan" has been used to describe the followers of pre-Christian religions. Wicca is often included in a field of religions called "Neo-Paganism".
So, while a "Wiccan" can be a "Pagan", a "Pagan" isn't always a "Wiccan".
Also, the term "Heathen" is often used in this context. The word literally means "one who lives in the heathes", or a dweller of the backwoods.
Q: Why don't Wiccans call themselves "Witches" that often?
The word "witch" has been given very negative meanings in the popular press. Everything from children's fairy tales to ultra-conservatives referrng to Hillary Clinton as "the Wicked Witch of Washington". Also, the term "witch" is often used towards women, and there are many men who practice Wicca. So, the non-offensive, gender neutral terms "Wicca" and "Wiccan" are commonly used.
Q: What about TV shows like "Bewitched", "Sabrina the Teenage Witch", "Charmed" and "Spellbound", or films like "The Craft"?
They're harmless fantasies that are very loosly based on popular interpretations of Wicca. The only problem is when people take these seriously.
Q: Are there any films that accurately portray Wicca?
This question will be answered in full in a few weeks (I have to research this). Right now, there is a film released into home video entitled "Drawing Down the Moon" where the main character is a Wiccan who runs a homeless shelter. I've seen it, I own a copy, and I think it's great! It presents Wicca as it really is, without all the media hype. You can read more about it on the Internet Movie Database.
"Drawing Down the Moon" is also a book by Margot Adler, about the Neo-Pagan moment in North America. Read it!
Q: What websites can you reccomend for those interested in Wicca?
Norm Vogel runs an excellent website called Witchcraft: The Facts which explains in depth what I've only touched lightly here. Also, the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance have a database on many religions, including Wicca. There are also The Celtic Connection and WiccaNet. Try a good search engine, like Dogpile, and see what you find!
Q: Is there a universal Wiccan doctrine?
Yes. The Wiccan Rede is "An It Harm None, Do What Thou Wilt" (The word "an" is Old English for "if", and not a trunication for "and"). It doesn't mean that you're free to do as you please, but that what you do should not harm others. Or to quote an anarchist maxim; "Your right to swing a frying pan ends where my nose begins."
Q: What's all this about flying on brooms?
Old artwork often shows witches flying on brooms. This is probably from the ancient fertility rite of riding a corn broom like a hobby horse, "showing" the corn how high to grow.
Also, there are legends about "flying ointments" that supposedly gave witches the power of flight. These were balms that were made of animal fat and various herbs with hallucingenic properties, like belladonna (Don't try this, since belladonna is VERY toxic, and a large dose will kill you!).
Q: What's all this about tarot cards?
The origin of tarot (TAH-row or TAY-row) cards is open to debate. They're often used in scrying (predicting the future), but can also be seen as an elaborate "inkblot" test to determine your current state of mind.
If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me.
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